Monday, February 11, 2013

got wood?

Ok folks, so I blame my lack of updating on pure laziness at this point.  It's been quite some time since I've updated, and a lot of new projects have been completed since I last wrote.  Since it's all turned into a messy blur in my jumbled mind, I'll start with the one project that was finished a couple months ago (I wanna say around the beginning of December?).  Being the awesome woodworker that he is, Frank decided that he was going to rebuild our entire bowsprit.  In one of our previous posts, I had mentioned that he had found extensive rot in our bowsprit where the the windlass was mounted.  The windlass bolts and wires were drilled directly through our bowsprit.  When this was done, it was not properly bedded and the water intrusion rotted out the wood in those areas.  We had tried to think of alternative solutions to fixing this, aside from rebuilding it, but after further inspection, we decided that simply scarfing in a piece of wood to the rotted areas was not going to cut it.  So off I went into doing some extensive research on the types of wood we should use that would be durable in the salty environment  and hard and flexible enough to withstand hefty loads.  After going back and forth between using Apitong, which is surprisingly hard to get even though they use it for most flatbeds in tractor trailers; Teak, which we all know is mucho dinero;  and some other obscure pieces of asian lumber, we decided that we were going to use Genuine Mahogany, due to its availability.  I know that Sika Spruce is often used in spars, but we had concerns over its flexibility because our bowsprit doubles as the anchor roller.  Hans Christians have all originally used either Apitong or Mahogany, and we didn't see a need to stray too far from what has worked well for over 30 years.  Here in Florida, there are not a lot of lumber yards that deal with anything except 2x4s, so we had to find alternate resources.


Since we have had bad experiences purchasing lumber sight unseen, and Frank likes to pick through the pile for the choice pieces, we opted to take a road trip to Atlanta, GA (the closest lumber yard with mahogany in the sizes that we needed).  Luckily for us it was cheaper to rent a pick up truck, a hotel room, and pay for gas money to get there than it was to have 4 pieces over 12 ft long shipped to us.  It also gave us a good excuse to skip town and see something new.  While we were there, we stumbled upon a great Asian market, something that I have missed dearly, as we know St Augustine isn't exactly a melting pot.  Frank was psyched when he found his favorite fruit...Jackfruit, which we've only been able to find in Hawaii and in the Chinatown in NY.  Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that was the inspiration for the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum.  It is native to South/Southeast Asia and it is the largest tree borne fruit with some growing up to 80 pounds.  It's pretty cool when you see them growing in the wild (we've picked them in Kauai) because they actually grow out of the the trunk of the tree rather than the branches.  They are related to figs and breadfruit, and when you crack it open, the edible fruit are  yellow pods nestled in the spiky green skin.  The pod surrounds a large seed and the texture is fibrous and almost rubbery.  It's also pretty sticky as the shell of it secretes a substance very similar to raw latex.  The fruit very fragrant, and the flavor is like a strawberry banana with a strong floral note.  Frank likens it to eating a piece of the tropics.  Yum.  Frank was a little overzealous and bought nearly 20 pounds of it, but I forgive him because it's rarely available and we were able to share it with our friends here at the yard.  I was also able to stock up on some of our favorite Asian snacks, such as shredded dried squid, lychee jellos, tom yum flavored deep fried seaweed, and sesame dried minnows.

Jackfruit growing 

The monster frank brought home

The edible part of the fruit


Sorry, I get easily distracted anything food related...:P  So we were able to find the 4 pieces that we needed in rough sawn lumber and haphazardly pile them into our grossly undersized rental pickup.  The boards were 11" wide x 2" thick x 12' long, and our pickup had a 5' bed, so that made for an interesting ride home with frequent stops to readjust the ratchet straps.  I don't really understand the purpose of a pickup when the cab is bigger than the bed, but it seems nowadays trucks are built as ego accessories as opposed to functional, utilitarian vehicles.

When we got it home, we left it below the boat under tarps for a month so that it could acclimate itself to the humid weather conditions down here before we could work with it.  We wanted to ensure that it didn't warp and it was stable before gluing it up.  After letting the wood settle, we had to figure out how we were going to plane it to size for glue up.  Since we didn't have a planer, or a work bench, our yard was nice enough to lend us their thickness planer.  We also borrowed a stand for the planer to help guide the boards through as 12' of mahogany is heavy for 2 people to feed through.  Each board required several passes on each side to true the surface, and with each pass the beautiful grain of the wood would show through more and more.  We went directly from planing to glue up and used West System Epoxy mixed with 403 microfiber filler for the lamination.  We didn't have the required clamps, so Frank once again made his own.  He created them using 2x4s and threaded rod from Home Depot and we spaced them less than a foot apart.  In order to prevent the laminated stock from sticking to the clamps, we used plastic sheeting to separate everything.  After the mad dash of laying up and clamping, we allowed everything to fully cure for a week before Frank began to shape it.

Our work station

After a run through the planer

Glueing up

Since he didn't have his plethora of wood working tools, in particular his beloved bandsaw, he had to get creative with cutting out the rough shape of the bowsprit.  We used a chalkline to measure and mark out for the cuts and he then used a skillsaw to cut in 2 1/2" from each side.  This left us a with a cut that still had a tab of wood remaining at its center.  A borrowed Sawzall and handsaw were able to cut through the tab and though it was slow going, it got the job done.  The underside of the original bowsprit has a slight curve to it which was not possible to cut with a circular saw, so Frank's way around it was to mark the curve and take measurements every 1" along the line.  He then cut from the top with a circular saw to each one of the depths creating a grid pattern.  The chunks of wood that were left in between the cuts were removed with a chisel and it was smoothed out with an angle grinder and 30 grit disc.  Likewise, the straight sides were brought down to their proper lines and tweaked using an electric handplaner.

Rough lines marked and cut 

Cuts made with the skill saw 

Slowly removing material

Marking and cutting for the curve

Chiseling out the excess

The roughed out curve

The tip of the bowsprit, where the cransiron fits onto, was another challenge as its cylindrical and the cransiron sides are inset into the sides of the bowsprit.  To get the precise cylindrical shape, Frank first cut that area into a perfect square with the width of the sides being the inner diameter of the cransiron.  From there, it was a matter of taking off the corners and rounding it all out.  He went from a square shape, down to an octagon, then finally to a circle.  The angle grinder with a 80 grit disc allowed him to fine tune the shape.  When everything was all finished, he then used the random orbit sander to smooth everything out.

Marking and cutting the circle for the cransiron 

Old and new bowsprit

Cransiron finally fits!

From there, all we had left was to drill the holes in the proper places to mount the bow pulpit and bowsprit to the samson posts.  This was easier said than done.  We were able to mount the bow pulpit in order to mark where the holes needed to be, but to drill blindly from one hole to another on a tapering surface was incredibly challenging.  If the bowsprit were squared, it would be easy to just put it in a drill press and call it a day, but since the sides are tapering, we needed to come up with a way to see where the drill bit would exit as well as enter.  We were unable to find any tools anywhere that would allow us to do that, so Frank designed his own.  The concept is pretty simple, it's a jig that holds a drill bit with a sighting apparatus that reaches around the other side.  It doesn't hold the drill bit in place, but merely allows someone to sit on the other side of the bowsprit and tell the driller which way to angle the drill and whether or not they were straying.  Remarkably, we were able to get within 1/16" of our desired exit point after drilling through 7" of mahogany.  This was not an easy task because a slight movement of the drill would drastically affect the exit point.  We did a lot of practice holes on our old bowsprit, with Frank frustratingly yelling at me because I couldn't stabilize the drill enough to get it to not wobble.  I eventually learned to brace the drill against my body and move my whole body rather than the drill when I needed to move up or down, or left to right.  This was complicated also by the fact that Frank, the sighter, was on the opposite side of me, so his right was my left and vice versa....not fun for a dyslexic!  We were eventually able to drill 8 holes in 2 days.  Frank was very proud that I was able to drill through hard mahogany under those conditions because I'm not usually very good with power tools.

Marking for the holes

Franks drill jig

Drill bit exiting right on target

In order to prevent the rot that we encountered in the original bowsprit, we treated all of the drill holes and the areas where the bowsprit sits against the deck with  Curprinol 9 wood preservative.  From there, we added 4 coats of Cetol and the ever so important bronze star at the tip to prevent bad ju-ju from entering the end grain.  All said and done, if you don't count the time waiting for glue to dry etc this project took about one week of actual work to complete.  Having the right tools would have sped up the process significantly.  In the next post, I will cover the bracket that Frank is making to prevent more holes from being drilled in our new bowsprit.  

Old vs new

Beautiful grain

All finished


  1. When you start with a pile of lumber it's hard to imagine the final finished product, but it looks amazing!!! As we know from working on our own boat projects, the hardest part is remembering to take photos during the job, not just at the end.

    When we bought Syrah we were told the original teak bowsprit had rotted and was replaced with two pieces of spruce (top/bottom) laminated together. Unlike Florida, there is no shortage of large timbers here on the west coast.

    We look forward to reading about some of your other projects while we continue on our own. Our blog should be updated this summer when we finally get to join the local live aboard community.

  2. That's very gorgeous, you guys did a wonderful job.

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  4. I first saw jackfruit in a grocery store in Northern Virginia a few months ago. I wasn't sure what it was at first or how it would look/taste. Thanks for sharing that part.

    That bowsprit looks really nice.

  5. Thanks everyone for the compliments! We are pretty proud of it. I'm proud that Frank did it given the limited tools :)

    To Dan-Caution with Jackfruit, it looks very similar to the more common Durian, which if you haven't acquired a taste for it, smells and tastes a little sulfuric....think farts. Haha. Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre foods can't even stomach it so be careful when purchasing. I personally love Durian, but that was after acquiring a taste for it.